Considering selling it all and living in an RV? Our interview with full-time RV er’s Jim & Deb Stephenson
Lisa: hi guys uh we’re so excited to talk to you Jim and Deb I’ve got them on the phone with us here there are full-time rver friends from Hiltonhead Island Motorcoach resort in South Carolina say hello Jim and Deb
Lisa: Why don’t you start out just first tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you decide to become full-time in the RV life?
Deb: well Jim and I are retired uh aerospace engineers and I retired about three years prior to the gym and we were on amelia island and had a really nice home there and Jim was still working and I was at home and trying to keep myself busy but got really bored with just kind of being in the same place all the time even though millie island’s really beautiful. And i always wanted to travel around so we went ahead and got a used RV the first year just to see if we liked it. And we had it about six months and we were sold on the lifestyle so then we go well as soon as Jim retires we’re gonna get this incredible you know Integra brand new 45-foot diesel pusher and we’re just gonna hit the road.
And we thought about actually keeping the house but I didn’t want to think about all the maintenance and worrying about who was there and you know leasing it or even if no one was there who’s going to take care of everything. so Jim’s still working and we had put an order on this um 44b unit with Integra in august and Jim’s at work. And in December the dealer called us and said your coach is ready it’s here. So while Jim is still at work I went and got a for sale by owner sign down at lowe’s I was putting it in the front yard when some neighbors walked by and said oh my god you’re selling your house you know who wants to buy it and this was on a Friday and Jim hadn’t even
noticed that the house is so sold yet because he’s still at work I go well you better hurry up because it’s going on the market right now and Jim came home and he died he couldn’t believe that the sign was there because got you to know we had to go down pick up the coach.
And I’m like well I’m ready to go and these people came up from the villages and bought our house the next morning within an hour it was sold so we were like over the moon thinking well now what do we do though you know and they said well you can stay in the house for about a month and a half while you get rid of everything because I wanted everything gone.
I wanted to be totally middle a minimalist you know
Deb: and feel that feeling of having total freedom and that’s what we did and we only kept a few items that we have in a small storage a 5×10 storage you know keepsakes for the kids and things like that but I was as free of everything
George: you guys went from zero to 100 in no time.
Deb: We did and it was a good move because uh you know and a few years we’ve been on the road like five and a half years now you know even the thought of settling down is just it just doesn’t feel right but we really kind of like the idea of having a place to park the bus once in a while you know and spend some time on downtime and that’s why we loved it here and we’ve always loved it here at Hiltonhead that’s why we bought here but it’s still we can still pick up and go whenever we want it’s just we do have a home base now so that’s been a positive part of it
George: That’s one of the things why we bought there too just thinking for the future to have that as a home base and whether we go full time or not even if I just park the RV there because right now I’m paying for storage and for Hiltonhead so I might get rid of the storage
Jim: Exactly! but you know we have a son up in Boston and a son out in phoenix and a daughter-in-law out there and there you know so we were you know going across the country you know several times a year I think last year went back and forth like three times and you know one of them will uh check out the property here before we made an offer on it well once we saw Hiltonhead Island Motorcoach resort we said well we had stayed here twice before once in our older coach and once
Deb: as close to everything you know no we’re gonna get any closer uh bike paths and in the beach I mean we just biked down there yesterday on our bikes
Jim: Right! you’re right by sea pines there and uh you know the boat club and I mean you couldn’t ask for anything more here.
Deb: without the means of a home which is what I really like we’ve had nine homes in our past and I don’t want another one [Laughter]
George: I hear you. So tell us where have you been I know you’ve been probably all over the country but what what
Lisa: What your favorite place?
Jim: well we’ve been clear to California San Diego I was born out there in San Bernardino and I’ve got family out in California who are wanting to get out of there because it’s going crazy out there. But uh we’ve been up all over the east coast we’ve been up uh you know the glacier national park what a beautiful park that was up there.
Deb: And that’s sure and uh northern part of Michigan upper Michigan’s beautiful Mackinac is gorgeous
Lisa: yeah those are my old stomping grounds you know I was born in Michigan.
Jim: oh yeah
Deb: Oh wow yeah yeah beautiful up there plus uh bar harbor Maine we love that
Jim: and this past uh Austin fall we were well the whole summer we’re up in Boston area, uh I love that Normandy Normandy farms RV resort up there it’s one of the best in the country and uh you know I love it here better than there but um you know but you’re so close to Boston we were close to our son we took trips up to New Hampshire and Vermont and you know upstate new york uh we went up into Quebec once in Montreal.
Deb: and yeah we did liberty harbor view in new jersey where you just hop a boat and go over to manhattan
Lisa: oh really? wow!
Deb: that was fun
Jim: Have you guys ever done that
George: I grew up in new york right 18 miles from the city so I used to go into the city all the time I know the ferry you’re talking about but I never took it because I lived on the new york side.
Lisa: but you did you go there with the RV?
Jim: Well, we did in fact we had some friends that went with us
Deb: and left the jeeps at the up in Normandy farms and we just hit the road with the coaches and we it’s like a big parking lot but you know you’re not going to be spending much time there anyway because you’re going into the city every day
Deb: so it’s a really good way to you know not to have to go to a hotel because I’m not big on hotels I don’t like them so yeah we have more stuff and
Jim: right so check this out these people that we had met just a couple of months before up in the Boston area they uh they came with us and it was Deborah’s birthday so they treated us and they Ubered us all the way into manhattan dinner the whole works and all the way back to uh liberty park there so uh quite an experience that was for us.
Deb: a lot of good people out there that’s why we that that’s really the one thing we love about this lifestyle you can live in development for years and not even know all of your neighbors. but come into you know a Motorcoach resort and everybody’s so nice and open and friendly and it doesn’t take you long to get to know everybody really well it’s that’s one of the most positive things I can say about being in this lifestyle.
George: totally agree I think it’s just everybody’s in the same lifestyle you know everybody that RVs they’ve had the disasters they’ve had the great trips that so everybody’s got like the story they want to tell so bad and everybody’s really nice and like Lisa always says if you can live with somebody in uh 400 square feet then you’re good to go.
Lisa: yeah you have to really like each other to choose that lifestyle.
Jim: we haven’t killed each other yet in five and a half years so
Deb: that’s true
George: all right that gives us hope baby
Deb: yeah and something a lot of people don’t know about is the rallies I mean you can like we have this all-inclusive motor coach club that we belong to and we’re constantly teaming up with them at some point down the road because they have these gatherings like almost one every month so you can always like see people over and over again that you enjoy and go to rallies where they’re having like dinner dances and themed sock hops or you know themed uh events where you know maybe it’s a saw cop or a prom or
Jim: a cajun
Deb: yeah luring twenties everybody dresses up and you just have a blast yeah they have a full bar and full you know really sit down meals with and then they bring in live entertainment it’s really quite
George: That’s awesome Lisa just found one what was the one that you found it was a hot air balloon in Albuquerque new Mexico for the hot air balloon festival.
Deb: Yeah we’ve been
Jim: oh we did that one yeah Integra had a rally there so we uh
Lisa: How was it?
Jim: oh it well you know it was sad because we never really got to see it because our little dog died and uh while we were there it’s just one of the things you take you take your dogs out for a walk and everything’s great the next day you’re putting one down because I found out that they’re really sick and suffering and it was that was uh that was quite the shock for us so we didn’t get to see the balloons taking off and going but maybe some other time.
Deb: That brings up something else a lot of people always ask us well what do you do about doctors and how do you do deal with that when you’re on the road full time and you don’t go back to the same place all the time we know what if we find out something’s wrong with us I mean you can go to any care center because we’re both on social security too and medicare but the thing is when you find out you got a problem you can do your research and go to the best doctor in the whole country and you just drive and you
George: Yup! just take your house
Lisa: wow that’s a really great point um that I didn’t even think about you know right wherever you want
George: and everybody always thinks oh what if the RV breaks down what if this breaks down but what if you break down that’s a great point nobody thinks about that.
Jim: Well I’ve got a cancer thing going on right now that I just found out about and the proton center down in Jacksonville is the place I’m going to go here once it’s safe enough for me to go down there because you know without the coronavirus and lockdown so I’ll be uh down there maybe for a month or two getting treatment so it’s great to just pull the coach up go down there.
Deb: and yeah we’re only gonna the RV park we’re staying going to stay at is only about 20 minutes from the facility where we have to go every day so it works out perfectly well.
Jim: what they say I’ve got a 93 to 97 percent chance of full cure so I’m good with that.
George: okay that’s great
Deb: it’s a lot easier than you think all this stuff you know I think people overthink things too much to go.
Lisa: yeah and letting go of stuff I think it is more of a challenge than I think you know I’m being a real estate agent, uh I go with these people that are downsizing all the time I’ve got one client in particular right now that I can think of went from this huge house and she decided to downsize into like a 3 500 square foot house and I was like and she wants something smaller and I was like you just got to let this stuff go you don’t need all these things you know.
Deb: well I’ve been doing that for years now and our last house we finally got down to 2700 square feet and then I’m going nope let’s just do it all and we did everything except for our collectibles like I said we’ve got things in storage right now but we also took one of our art pieces our Salvador Dali and put it in the coach so you can have your art collection too you know.
Lisa: as long as it’s stuck on the wall good you’re fine 12:49
Deb: not this industrial
Lisa: So that’s a good question that kind of leads me into my next question like what really are some of the biggest challenges that you found um living in the RV? uh aside from of course ou know sheer size and downside
Jim: well challenges would be I would say issues that happen and you know all the motor coaches always have issues you know I don’t care if you buy a Prevost you’re always going to have issues and like like I just had an issue with the last rainstorm that went through here and I had water dripping out of one of the led lights in the ceiling now where in the world did that water come from and I had just had the roof uh all sealed up and everything the year before and you know other measures taken to make sure water doesn’t penetrate in and then here’s the water so I’m like what’s happening?
well I had uh I don’t know if you know this gentleman paul he’s you know one of the guys that you know repairs RVs here in the facility and he came over yesterday we went up on the roof and it and it was kind of like well it’s the orientation of the coach and you know if your water is running up toward the front of the coach on our particular design and you know if you have a fast downpour then that might water might build up and then it would come in maybe certain areas and even though we’re five years into it we’re still learning things about this coach.
Deb: well it one of the things, if you have a brand new coach what we enjoyed having two years warranty with uh which worked most of our bugs out yeah after that you better get an extended warranty because something’s going to happen someone’s going to hit you oh yeah look at them that happened to us the thing was, is that that paid for everything they put us up in you know in a hotel and everything so that’s important to have.
Jim: but then some self-insure you know instead of paying the money for a policy an extended warranty they’ll just fix things as they happen but you know when you have you know a 450 horsepower or 600 horsepower Cummins diesel and something goes wrong with it you’re looking at probably thirty thousand dollars to replace the diesel yeah but yeah the Allison transmission might be six thousand so I mean you know I’d rather just have the uh with the extra warranty that it’ll all be taken care of if I have any major problems.
George: oh yeah that was the first thing we did was get the extended warranty
George: I don’t want to mess with anything that I don’t have to.
Lisa: yeah cause ours is 2018 well that’s our second coach and we’ve only been RVers for like two and a half years so e bought a brand new um Fleetwood bounder 36 foot had that for just over a year put 20 000 miles on it and really decided that we loved it and so that’s when we got the new coach so.
Jim: ours was our first was a fleetwood south wind you know
Jim: you know the end of the bible
George: yeah that was exactly our situation was this investment isn’t that major to find out if we like it and if we like it then we’ll move up if we don’t like it well then we just cut our losses.
Jim: that’s right
Deb: because no matter what you choose it’s a loss because these things
George: oh yeah the minute you drive off it’s like any vehicle
Lisa: yeah yeah
Deb: it’s not an investment except in a lifestyle however you gotta remember
Jim: however the RV park buying in here that’s an investment because you know we’ve watched the prices go up and up and up and we looked at how much we spent traveling around the country visiting our children back and forth and you know I mean they can hop a plane and fly to us a whole lot cheaper than it if we were going to go up there and spend like when we spent the whole summer up in Boston that was we got a deal on that that was about eight grand you know to stay in the park and then plus you pay electricity on top of that but you know we add up how much we spent just driving across the country and visiting friends and family and uh yeah I’m sure it was over twenty thousand and uh and I’m thinking shoot I could stay here in the RV park and spend about four grand for uh you know HOA fees and yeah proper property taxes and you know pay the electric on top of that life is good.
George: right save some money
Lisa: Yeah that’s actually a good question because a lot of people um you know being RV life is like a big kind of craze I guess right now at least I feel like there are all these people that are even taking their kids and homeschooling living in RVs and stuff and people always ask how do you do that like how do you make money and things like that so kind of a good number to know 20 grand is what you spend you know on the road in a year
Deb: Yeah and the thing is it’s now becoming more and more difficult to find places especially if it’s a popular place f you want to go to like glacier or Yellowstone you better know a year in advance.
George: Yeah we’ve heard that before our friend said when they went last year they have a class c and he said if you weren’t t the gate when it opened up you weren’t getting in for a spot and he said it was just that busy but it’s so popular and it’s a great adventure anyway.
Deb: yeah we want to do next year we’re supposed to do um Newfoundland with our friends there they went last year and they were they want to spend next year there so we’re thinking the next summer we might do that with them.
George: that would be nice.
Deb: you put these big things on a ferry, wow and it’s going to be interesting you know because it takes a while to get over there you gotta pop these on a ferry though with your toad and to go you know.
Jim: we did here we did that giant, uh you know the world’s largest gathering of RVs out in quartzite Arizona they do that uh shoot they do that January toward the end of January
Deb: And you’re boondocking.
Jim: And you’re talking I don’t know a hundred thousand rivers are out there and partying and you know it’s it was quite an adventure it was an experience
Lisa: oh that sounds like a lot of fun actually we’ve been trying to find different things to do that we can look forward to we’ve been doing a lot of music festivals and things like that we found we really enjoy where there’s like an activity or something where we’re going to yeah
Deb: sure do the NASCAR,
Lisa: Yeah that’s awesome I wanted to do that you got to get those are hard to come to buy tickets sometimes too
Deb: well we know some people so next year about you know next spring
Jim: we’re going to do they’re talking about us getting tickets on the inside
Deb: well then they know some drivers and so we’re gonna piggyback with them
Jim: you better start acting on that though. We bought season tickets for Disney world yeah so but of course, Disney world shut down until I think January the first so we don’t know when they’re gonna yeah that’s what we heard so they’re gonna extend our annual passes you know into next year
Lisa: oh that’s
George: well you know what it’s probably perfect timing for Disney. Because we were just there and there was a lot of construction going on i was surprised that how much construction I’ve never seen they’re doing everywhere everything, yeah but even Disney.
Jim: Yeah I know they’ll probably have it all done when they reopen so
George: oh yeah and it’ll be squeaky clean
Jim: oh yeah
Lisa: Yeah we’ve uh I’ve been watching some of the just you know our stuff about people traveling in their RVs that don’t have a place like Hilton’s head that they own to go to and um a lot of them were struggling because they didn’t have a place to go and they closed up a lot of these parks and so they had nowhere to go that way.
Jim: I know
Deb: that was interesting yeah I heard people like they took advantage of Walmart, ‘s going from one Walmart to another
Lisa: yeah well hey thank goodness for Walmart sometimes it’s quite a few times
Jim: actually when you’re driving across country and you’re like I’m kind of tired I don’t want to keep driving so you just find a Walmart park
Deb: or the state welcome state uh stations n the interstate those are really good
Jim: yeah you put out two slides and we call that our Walmart configuration two slides going on
Deb: next morning you just hit the road and you don’t have to get off the interstate which is nice.
George: Yeah we’ve done Walmart what twice two or three times two or three times and then we did h a rest area going down to Florida one time just for a couple of hours to yeah yeah
Jim: hey check that out do you know they put the they’re putting that high speed high def uh internet and uh television here in the park here.
Lisa: oh yeah I heard that and everyone gets their own modems if they won’t even which is awesome so now we can stream all the tv we want is that right?
Jim: ben and it’s you know it’s all high def digital so yeah good how are you working perfectly yeah
George: I got to keep Lisa work and I’m accustomed to a certain lifestyle
Jim: that’s right the best cook in the world and well I’m telling you what you know with all the restaurants being closed down I’m actually enjoying this even better eating here and cooking out in the barbecues and you know we have a griddle that we just purchased back in them that we have installed here so each fajitas today.
Lisa: yeah I saw that I love cooking too.
George: it’s funny because this forced quarantine even for us we were just talking about it the other day it’s nice to all the ids are here and we’re having family dinners and we’re like this is really nice.
George: and I know as soon as the quarantine’s done these kids are gone yeah they’re always at a friend’s house somewhere or were gone.
Deb: there are some positives to it that’s for sure.
Lisa: yeah well especially you know it’s like a double-edged sword with Ryan our oldest son is a senior in high school this year so he’s you know they say they’re going to do something to celebrate graduation but his whole rugby season was canceled and everything and know they said we’re not going back to school so you know it’s kind of a bummer for him but at the same time I’m like he’s going to be gone in a few months and you know we never would have had this time with him so you know there are definitely some positives to it.
George: I always got to look for the silver lining that’s right that’s what I always say
Lisa: that’s right well let’s wrap this up to tell me uh one last question if you what is your best advice to give somebody who’s thinking about becoming um a full-time RVer what would your best advice be?
Jim: Well you know I think it’s what you and you know what we did is go get yourself a used RV and you know don’t spend a lot of money on it and uh travel around and with it and see how you enjoy it
Deb: uh well make sure the RV lifestyle you like that before you think about full-timing it
Deb: but once you know that if you can go out in that trial run and not and it really kind of actually I get kind of depressed coming back I was like I could not wait to go back out again you know and that’s I think what it was just a natural for me because we’ve always moved around the country anyway so I always felt like after five years it was time to go somewhere anyway in a house even so.
Jim: And then do yourself a favor and go to you know a couple of the RV shows as we went to the one down in Tampa uh which I think is the best RV show in the country we’ve been to quite a few of them
George: like sunny’s resort or whatever that place is.
Jim: it’s at the fairgrounds at the Florida state fairgrounds right there in Tampa and it’s put on by lazy days.
George: that’s it lazy days that’s what I was thinking of
Jim: but they’ve got all makes and models there Prevo you know everything you can think of is there and uh you know you want a four million dollar bus you can go in there and you know
George: so yeah that’s my problem I’m scared to take Lisa to one of those she’s got this knack for picking out the most expensive everything
Deb: yeah they go up to like four or five million there so
Lisa: wow it would be fun just to go you know it’s kind of like looking at mansions you know
Jim: well George you married up obviously so like
George: oh yeah absolutely
Lisa: smart man
George: that right
Lisa: well listens thank you Jim and deb it’s been a real pleasure talking with you guys uh I will share if it’s okay with you uh your contact information or email so that people can reach out to you from Facebook or whatever if they have questions about RV life and um we look forward to seeing you hope we’ll be back down in Hilton’s head pretty soon.
George: I know I can’t wait like he’s saying that I’m itching to get out of here I miss the road.
Deb: I know
Jim: I know
George: all right guys thank you and we’ll see you soon
Jim: thank you, guys! be safe and God bless
Lisa: all right
Jim: thank you bye-bye
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